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17 Things That Actually Helped Me Lose 85 Pounds

You don't have to eat salads every day to lose weight.

Hi! I'm Arielle. Between May 2015 and now, I've lost 85 pounds, dropped five sizes, ran a 10K, and learned a ton about healthy lifestyle changes.

Here's an honest (and extremely vulnerable) account of the steps I took and the things that surprised me along the way.

1. First I signed up for Weight Watchers and started off slow.

I've been yo-yo dieting all my life, and the two biggest mistakes I have made again and again are this:

1. Telling myself, "The diet starts tomorrow" and bingeing on all my favorite foods.

2. Giving things up cold turkey and depriving myself of foods I love.

The main reason I signed up for Weight Watchers is because it's about an overall change beyond the scale, not just losing weight. The program is based on a points system that focuses on more than solely calories. Foods like fruits and vegetables are zero points, lean meats are very low points, and anything with added sugar is very high. Basically Weight Watchers encourages fresh, real food rather than processed crap — but you can still eat your pizza and drink your alcohol — the key is to do it all in moderation and find healthy substitutes.

2. I stopped the dangerous habit of restrictive calorie-counting (a road I have been down before) and focused on a healthy lifestyle.

3. I followed the three most common pieces of advice when it comes to weight loss: tracking food, activity, and water intake.

Tracking food: As I do follow Weight Watchers, the point is to track all your food — even the splurges you don't want to admit to (everyone is assigned a weekly allowance for this purpose). It's good to honestly track what's actually going in your body so you can manage portion control and stay accountable. For a week, I also wrote down my level of hungriness every time I ate, which helped me control "boredom cravings." If you are not with a program or using an app, you can also track your food with a journal or spreadsheet.

Tracking activity: Getting an Apple Watch is actually what kick-started my journey because I was finally taking note of how much I moved. Obviously devices like this and FitBit are expensive, but you can always use free apps to help you track your steps and other exercises.

Tracking water intake: Hydrating is so, so important! Often when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually just thirsty. I downloaded the Plant Nanny app, which prompts you to enter your body info and lets you plant cute flowers as you drink more water. It also has push notifications so you can always see how many glasses you have left to drink in the day.

4. I finally started eating legit breakfast, not just a piece of fruit.

5. I skipped the gym at first and opted for walking instead.

6. I didn't give up on myself when times got rough.

7. I stopped ordering Seamless and forced myself to learn how to cook my favorite foods with healthy substitutes.

8. I did my research and learned that added sugar is the goddamn devil.

9. And I learned that protein is the sweet, sweet angel.

10. I learned to celebrate non-scale victories.

11. About four months into my lifestyle change, I quit drinking — but not intentionally.

12. When I finally felt comfortable enough to work out, I joined a gym and tried a bunch of classes.

13. I don't sacrifice my social life — I just plan healthier meals and snacks around it.

14. On days when I feel like the same girl from eight months ago, I look at before and after pictures.

15. I relied on support from the Weight Watchers Connect feature.

In November/December of 2015, Weight Watchers changed its plan from Points Plus to Smart Points, as well as added this new Connect feature. It has been a total game changer.

Members can post success stories, relatable struggles, ask for advice, share recipes, and more. I do the online program, so this is a great way for me to get the support of IRL meetings without dishing out the extra cash.

16. I took the hard but important step of donating all my old clothes.

17. I'm finally learning to love myself.

If you want to keep up with my weight loss journey, you can follow me on Instagram.

And if you want to share your own success story with BuzzFeed Health, email us at healthstories@buzzfeed.com. You can also follow BuzzFeed Community on Facebook for a chance to be included in weight loss story roundups!